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Media Release
Australian Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Senator the Hon. Ian Campbell

7 October 2005

Public comment on Sydney desalination plant invited

The Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell, today welcomed public comment on the proposal to build a desalination plant at Kurnell in Sydney.

The proposed desalination plant was last week formally referred by the NSW Government under federal environment law to determine whether Commonwealth legislation will apply to the proposal.

The Australian Government’s environment law, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act), provides for the protection of certain defined matters of national environmental significance (NES). The matters of NES include world and national heritage properties, wetlands of international importance, migratory species, nationally threatened species and ecological communities, nuclear actions, and the Commonwealth area, including the Commonwealth marine area off Kurnell Peninsula.

The Australian Government’s involvement in any development proposals is relevant only to these very specific matters.

Development proposals that are likely to have a significant impact on these matters must be assessed and approved by the Australian Government under the federal environment law. The EPBC Act cannot apply to those development proposals which are not likely to have a significant impact on these matters.

Once a proposal has been referred, a public comment period may apply for 10 business days.

In the case of the proposed desalination plant, a number of community groups have requested more time to make submissions.

“Given that concerned groups have requested more time and recognising the significance of this issue to the broader Sydney community, I will be accepting public comment on the proposal until 1 November,” Senator Campbell said.

The public comment will be considered, together with detailed analysis of the proposal, to determine whether the federal law will apply.

“This proposed plant will ultimately remain the primary responsibility of the NSW Government. However, in the event that federal law is applicable to the proposal, it will undergo a full and proper environmental assessment with full public consultation,” Senator Campbell said.

“If it is the case that Commonwealth law cannot apply to the proposed plant, then I expect that the NSW Government will undertake the appropriate environment assessments before proceeding with its construction.”

Media Contacts:
Renae Stoikos (Minister Campbell) (02) 6277 7640 or 0418 568 434

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